When I was a child, I always looked up at the night sky. I found myself lost in awe of our immeasurably vast universe. As I stared, my feelings of wonder gave way to curiosity. I wanted to travel the cosmos, see those beautiful star systems up close, and explore the alien worlds that I saw dancing in the heavens.
I can’t exactly pinpoint the origins of my obsession with space exploration. Maybe it was all the Star Trek that I watched with my great-grandma as a little kid? I’ve wanted to work in the space industry my entire life as a scientist, engineer, and especially an astronaut! Perhaps my career goals were molded in the 90’s by the Space Shuttle program and the beginnings of the International Space Station?
The question “why space” often comes up when share my out of this world aspirations. In fact , I just answered it during an interview with the 1% Engineer Show. At 5 years old my response simply would have been “because space is cool!”. However Just like I’ve matured over the years, so have my reasons for wanting to work in space.
As an adult I realize that one of my greatest fears is living an “ordinary” life. That includes working a mundane job where I’m just going through the motions every day until retirement . I crave a career filled with innovation and excitement where I can apply my passions for technology and problem solving to make the world a better place. Traveling the cosmos is as far from ordinary as you can get. Working in the void of outer space constantly presents new and highly technical challenges that humanity must work hard to overcome. Solutions to space problems will often end up helping back down on Earth. The systems that filter our water, the silicon chips in our electronics, and even the materials that make the soles of our tennis shoes were all initially developed to help us explore space. The ever-present challenge of the final frontier makes it society’s greatest catalyst for cutting edge and world changing innovation.
The most powerful force that drives my passion for space goes beyond science and technology. Space exploration gives us an entirely new perspective in both the literal and philosophical senses. We ,as people, often create artificial boarders and separate ourselves based on differences in skin color, religion, nationality, and political beliefs. However, when we go up to space and look back at our home planet we see that none of those boarders really matter or exist. Instead , all the different colors, patterns, and textures of our planet seamlessly blend together into one beautiful jewel. Looking deeper into the cosmos shows us first hand how difficult it is to establish and maintain life in the universe. It persuades us think on a higher plane. To survive in the void of space, or even another planet, we must work together on the national and international levels. We have to ignore the minor and arbitrary differences that separate us and instead unite on our common hopes, dreams, and humanity.
Every night while walking my little yorkie I still take a moment to look up to the heavens and let my mind wonder. The beauty of the stars reminds me exactly why I chose to pursue a graduate degree in engineering focusing on space based research. We are part of a universe that is truly greater than ourselves and I want to help humanity explore it. My greatest inspiration comes when I see a full moon lighting the sky. It makes me think about the boot prints of 12 different astronauts that are forever imprinted in the lunar soil. Only 12 people in the history of humanity can say that they have walked on another world.
My ultimate goal is to put my own boot prints on a surface beyond Earth be it the moon, another planet such as Mars, or even an asteroid. That thought alone alone motivates me during the long nights my STEM studies, pushes me to be a more compassionate person , and inspires me to work hard on this planet so that I can travel off of it!
This piece comes to us from one of our amazing community members, Aaron Shepard. His bio is below, be sure to check out his amazing website and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!
Aaron Shepard (@spacecadetshep) is an engineering student, NASA funded robotics researcher, and an aspiring astronaut! He is passionate about advocating for STEM and space exploration to students from all backgrounds. Outside of space and STEM Aaron loves tinkering in his work room, running, Latin dancing with his wife, and scuba diving.